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Burton’s Legal Thesaurus Top 10 Legal Terms and Expressions for 2022

January 19, 2023 (8 min read)

By Burton’s Legal Thesaurus Select Committee on Terminology

The top ten new legal terms and expressions in law in 2022 have been chosen by the Select Committee on Terminology of Burton’s Legal Thesaurus, a reference book providing plain language and clear legal writing to the legal field over the past four decades.

Published by LexisNexis and edited by Brian Burton, Associate Author. The reference tool allows lawyers to choose all the words which fit their thought.

“These words reflect the fascinating and diverse areas of growth for both legal scholars and practitioners, including technology, finance, employment, and diversity and equity initiatives,” said Select Committee Chair Margaret Wu, Professor of Legal Writing at UC Berkeley School of Law.

“Ongoing effects of the COVID pandemic and sea changes at the U.S. Supreme Court this year have also shaped the legal vocabulary. I personally had a lot of fun reviewing these terms with the other committee members, and I hope this list will help expand the understanding of new trends in the law.”

Top Legal Terms of 2022

Complicit bias

An institution or community’s complicity in sustaining discrimination and harassment. Originally introduced by law professor Michele Goodwin to describe bias dynamics in the workplace, use of the term has expanded to discussion of other communal norms that perpetuate inequity and bias.

Computational law (or Complaw)

An interdisciplinary field concerned with the automation of legal reasoning. The study and development of technology that can apply rules to specific inputs without additional analysis from human experts are growing areas of legal interest.

Great Reshuffle

A variation of the “Great Resignation” of employees during the pandemic; studies this year suggested that many workers leaving their jobs are going to other fields rather than leaving work completely. As employers revise their practices to better retain workers, employment lawyers can partner with their clients in these innovations.


The use of legal proceedings and systems to damage an opponent. Although use of the term in varying contexts traces back to 1975, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted renewed interest in the efforts of Russian oligarchs to silence critical journalists through lawsuits, including a hearing by the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe on “Countering Oligarchs, Enablers, and Lawfare.” Another report this year investigated counter efforts by Ukraine to use international investment law to seek damages against the Russian government. The term also has appeared in descriptions of other laws and litigation viewed as targeting particular viewpoints or individuals.

Major Questions Doctrine

The legal doctrine that in “extraordinary cases” where the “history and the breadth” and “economic and political significance” of asserted agency authority cause doubt about whether “Congress meant to confer such authority,” there must be “clear congressional authorization” for the asserted power. W. Virginia v. Env't Prot. Agency, 142 S. Ct. 2587, 2609-10 (2022) (citations omitted). This term rose to prominence this year as the United States Supreme Court used it for the first time in a majority opinion, striking down the EPA’s 2015 Clean Power Plan and raising major questions of its own as to future effects on agency actions.

Meme Stock

Shares of a company that become massively popular through videos, images or posts shared on social media platforms. The hype can lead to share prices quickly becoming overvalued relative to the company’s underlying fundamentals, and the practices by which brokerages executed trades during rallies of these stocks has raised concern from regulators, prompting potential new rules from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Movement Law 

A theory of legal scholarship to work with social movements rather than simply study them. As one recent article noted, there is a growing body of scholarship that seeks to ground legal doctrine in real life experiences rather than more theoretical assumptions that may favor more traditional biases. See Amna A. Akbar et al., Movement Law, 73 Stan. L. Rev. 821 (2021).

Quiet Quitting

Doing just the bare minimum of one’s job to avoid getting fired. Another effect of the pandemic (see also Great Reshuffle above), this trend has given rise to new challenges for labor and employment lawyers and also new questions for a legal industry that has historically rewarded long billable hours.

Return to Office (RTO)

Referring to issues and policies concerning employees returning to work in their employers’ workspaces after working remotely during the pandemic. Local governments are also considering incentives to attract more workers to support surrounding local businesses like restaurants.

Synthetic Identity Fraud

Defined by the Federal Reserve Board as “the use of a combination of personally identifiable information (PII) to fabricate a person or entity in order to commit a dishonest act for personal or financial gain.” Among the most rapidly growing financial crimes in the United States, this type of fraud differs from traditional identity theft in that it uses both real and fabricated information and thus may evade traditional fraud prevention methods. Of particular concern to law enforcement agencies is that these thefts often target children’s social security numbers, which may not be as closely monitored as those of adults.

“The more words which are added to the vocabulary of law, the more lawyers can express their ideas more clearly and precisely,” says William C. Burton, author of Burton’s Legal Thesaurus. “That is a valuable and valiant effort. I thank the blue-ribbon members of the Select Committee for choosing the neologisms to be added to the lexicon of law.”

Burton's Select Committee is led by Professor Wu and also includes Virginia Wise, former Thayer Senior Lecturer on Law at Harvard University; Roland Vogl, Executive Director of the Stanford Program in Law, Science and Technology and a Lecturer in Law at Stanford Law School; and Cindy Thomas Archer, Professor of Lawyering Skills at UC Irvine School of Law.

Butron’s Thesaurus Select Committee on Terminology

Margaret Wu, Chair. Professor Wu joined the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law as a Professor of Legal Writing in 2021, after serving in UC's Office of the General Counsel for over fourteen years. As Deputy General Counsel, Litigation & Capital Strategies, she led the practice group with responsibility for litigation throughout the UC system as well the University’s construction, real estate, land use, and environmental health and safety lega lservices. Wu also led the in-house legal team in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, the landmark Supreme Court case protecting the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program. She joined OGC as a litigator handling academic affairs and other complex litigation in a variety of areas, including student and faculty free speech, public records requests, and privacy and data breaches. She has been a frequent speaker for the National Association for College and University Attorneys and has also presented for the California Minority Counsel Program. She previously worked as a litigator at Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco and at Boies, Schiller & Flexner in Oakland, and she clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken.

Cindy Thomas Archer joined the University of California Irvine School of Law as a Professor of Lawyering Skills in 2020. Passionate about inclusive excellence in education, she was honored with Chancellor’s Inclusive Excellence Award upon her appointment at UCI. She teaches first year Lawyering Skills as well as the Legal Profession. Prof. Archer’s expertise and experience include Legal Analysis and Communication; Experiential Education; Professional Identity Formation; a Lawyer’s Professional Responsibility and Access to Justice, Client Interviewing and Counseling Skills, and Cultural Humility in Client Representation; Inclusive Excellence in Legal Education. She has been a regular presenter and invited panelist on topics related to experiential education, cultural competence in lawyering skills curriculum, and clinical legal education. Throughout her career, Prof. Archer has been active in regional and national professional organizations promoting and supporting the work of lawyering skills as a discipline. Prof. Archer has lectured on a variety of professional responsibility topics for local bar associations and served on boards and committees of local affinity bar associations. Prior to joining the faculty at UCI, she was a Clinical Professor of Law at LMU Loyola Law School, Los Angeles for 20 years and Associate Dean of Clinical Programs and Experiential Education where she was influential in inaugurating the Loyola Social Justice Law Clinic.

Dr. Roland Vogl is a scholar, lawyer and entrepreneur who, after more than twenty years of academic and professional experience, has developed a strong expertise in legal informatics, intellectual property law and innovation. Dr. Vogl is Executive Director of the Stanford Program in Law, Science and Technology and a Lecturer in Law at Stanford Law School. He focuses his efforts on legal informatics work carried out in the Center for Legal Informatics (CodeX), which he co-founded and leads as Executive Director. Dr. Vogl is also a Visiting Professor at the University of Vienna, Austria and where he teaches about U.S. intellectual property law and at Bocconi University in Italy where he teaches computational law. Dr. Vogl is also actively involved in the rapidly growing legal tech industry. He was named to the American Bar Association Journal’s “Legal Rebels,“ a highly-regarded group of legal innovators and he was previously selected as one of the Fastcase 50. Dr. Vogl is on the Board of Directors of Merico, LexCheck, and IPNexus and on the advisory board of Lawgood, Lexon, Legaler, Leap-IP and Rulebooks. Previously, he co-founded and served as CFOO of Vator, Inc. and SIPX, Inc., a copyright technology company which was acquired by ProQuest in 2015. His experience also includes working as the first teaching fellow of Stanford Law School’s international LLM degree program in Law, Science and Technology, as an IP associate at Fenwick & West LLP, as a press associate at the European Parliament and as a law clerk at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Audiovisual Media, Information and Communication.

Virginia Wise is Chair of the Burton Awards Academic Board and a former Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School. Ms. Wise taught courses in advanced legal research, international, foreign and comparative legal research, and legal research for foreign LL.M. students. Ms. Wise previously taught at the University of Michigan School of Information and Library Studies, Boston University Law School, Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science, and as a visiting professor at the University of Washington. She was a visiting fellow at the Australian National University in Canberra, a consultant on legal information and legal education for the U.S. government in Estonia, Mongolia and South Africa, and a consultant for the United Nations Development Programme in Vietnam. She is the co-author of “Bundling, Boundary Setting, and he Privatization of Legal Information” in Market-Based Governance (John Donahue & Joseph Nye eds., Brookings Institute, 2002).